“I didn’t make the basketball team in sixth grade,” said Jackson. “Some people don’t know that. I was kicked off from the team, which I guess was kind of the start of my basketball journey.”
By the time Jackson reached high school, he was playing for both the basketball and football teams along with being an honor student at HCCHS.
Jackson was heavily recruited by different schools including the University of Kentucky and University of Georgia. Jackson ended up at the University of Georgia and graduated with an early childhood development degree, but moved on to China, where he has been playing professionally now for four years.
“I play professionally now,” said Jackson. “I started off in China after I graduated in May of 2010. When I graduated, I kind of had a few different things in line. I talked to a few different coaches such as Larry Brown, who was working with the Charlotte Bobcats at the time. He had seen me play my junior year in college and we had a lot of talks. He was actually the one who got me connected to the opportunity in China.”
Jackson said when he arrived in China, he had $50 to his name.
“I just graduated from college, I had $50 in my pocket,” said Jackson. “When I got off the plane, they had people holding these signs up for me and my coach, then we were escorted outside, where I got into one car and my coach got into another car… that was an experience in itself.”
Jackson said everywhere he has played, the experiences have been different.
“I have played in China, Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, Holland, Kuwait and Ecuador,” said Jackson. “The reason I have played in so many places is because in South America the seasons are different. So, in Argentina the season is very similar to the NBA.”
Jackson said the season normally starts in October and runs until April.
“They bring you in, in September,” said Jackson. “Then, we start playing in October until the season ends in April. But, in places like Venezuela, Ecuador and even Holland, the seasons tend to start a little later or a little bit earlier, which allows me to play two seasons in two different countries.”
“I have to say going to Kuwait was not what I was expecting,” said Jackson. “I was raised Christian, I went to the church right down the street from my house. Everyone in Kuwait is Islamic and my first day there, when I got off the plane, the perception I have had of this place, was what I had seen on television. You know the bombs and terrorists… but, when I looked around, there were people dressed in more traditional clothing and then there were people dressed like me. Then we got into the car and all of a sudden I hear something over these loud speakers and then people started praying.”
Jackson thought there would have been more issues at the fact he was Christian in an Islamic country, but there was a mutual respect for one another.
“They pray three to four times a day,” said Jackson. “It was very different and took some getting use to, but they were also very accepting of me. They actually had a Christian church down from my apartment, where I and some of my teammates went. As far as living goes, they have malls just like we do, actually everything we have here, they have there, too. It was a very comfortable living.”
Jackson said from his experience in living in different places, he has come to realize that people are all the same.
“I will say about living in all these different countries, I have learned that, we all basically do the same thing every day,” said Jackson. “We all use the bathroom; take a shower, put on our clothes… just different ways of doing it.”
When playing in Ecuador, Jackson said the team trained at sea level, but that the game was at a different altitude.
“We trained on sea level,” said Jackson. “The gym we played the championship game in was at a higher altitude. We get up there and during the first 10 minutes of the game, I was bent over gasping for air… I felt like I was about to pass out. Our coach even told us we would be at a higher altitude and playing would be a little different for us... I guess I must have forgotten.”
Jackson said that most leagues around the world have to have at least two “foreign” players.
“When I was playing in Uruguay, it was me, the American player and one Argentinean player as foreigners,” said Jackson. “When I was playing in Venezuela, there were two American players, which included myself and a Puerto Rican as a third import.”
“I have a lot of other things I want to do outside of basketball,” said Jackson. “I’m 26 now; I plan to play until I am 30. My goal is to try and do a Youth Dust Bowl here next year. It’s going to be free, but I am going to need the teams. I want to do elementary, middle and high school. I want to give the kids something to do, so I am working hard on getting the community involved and push this. The more support these little things get, the bigger they will be.”
SurfKY Lead News Reporter
Photo by Amber Averitt
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